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Five things to get excited about in F1 2019

Written by  Jan 02, 2019

The bells have rung, 2019 has arrived and Formula 1 is counting down to the start of a new season.

74 days remain until lights out in Australia on March 16, but before teams will be launching their new cars before testing, with the first four-day event beginning on February 18 in Barcelona.

Last year saw another Mercedes vs. Ferrari battle dominate the headlines as Lewis Hamilton & Sebastian Vettel went head-to-head with the Briton coming out on top.

Red Bull was once again close but not close enough in third and Renault emerged victorious in a titanic midfield scrap while historic names like McLaren and Williams struggled.

2019 will be historic, marking both the 70th championship season and the 1000th race, but it is also tipped to be a year of change in F1 so here are five things to look forward to over the next 12 months...

1. Robert Kubica's big return

A big reason why it feels like the sport is starting afresh is the raft of driver moves taking place as eight of the 10 teams see at least one new face behind the wheel.

While some will be new to F1, others will not and none are more familiar to the sport than Robert Kubica, who makes his much-anticipated comeback with Williams after nine years away.

A horrendous rally crash in early 2011 was thought to have ended the Pole's racing career after suffering arm injuries which still affect him today.

But that all changed in 2017 as a number of test days paved the way to a reserve and development driver role with the Grove-based team last year and now a race seat for this season.

Kubica fever has been back in effect since the first day he turned a wheel publicly with Renault a year-and-a-half ago, and now he has the chance to show he still has what it takes to compete at the very highest level.

Results won't be immediate, particularly at a Williams squad that had its third-worst year ever in 2018, but just to see Kubica back on an F1 grid is satisfying enough by itself

2. Kimi & Ricci join the midfield battle

Two of the biggest driver moves for 2019 see Kimi Raikkonen and Daniel Ricciardo leave their front-running drives and join the midfield pack.

For Raikkonen, he has the opportunity to continue his F1 career at Sauber, the team where it all began back in 2001 and help continue their progress back up through the field after years of hardship.

As for Ricciardo, his decision to leave Red Bull remains one of the most debated topics from last season, but for the Australian, the challenge of trying to lead Renault back to the front in F1 was too interesting to turn down.

Questions remain over how successful their endeavours will be, in the meantime though both Kimi and Daniel can expect plenty of brilliant battles in what will likely be a very closely fought midfield against the likes of Racing Point, Haas and McLaren.

3. F2's top names make the jump

Amid the driver shake-up for 2019, three names will make their F1 debut in Melbourne and they are the top three finishers from last year's F2 championship.

Champion George Russell will race for Williams, Lando Norris is promoted at McLaren and Alexander Albon takes his place at Toro Rosso.

For Russell, the pressure is a little higher having matched the same feat as Charles Leclerc of winning F2 and GP3 at his first attempt. There is also the prospect of impressing his superiors at Mercedes, particularly with Esteban Ocon not on the grid.

Norris shall follow in the footsteps of Lewis Hamilton at McLaren which, despite their drop in competitiveness, still brings a weight of expectation. Then there's Albon who impressed against Leclerc in the junior categories and will have the eyes of Red Bull watching over him.

It is the first time since the early 1990's that the top three from the second highest level of open-wheel racing have all made the jump to F1, and their arrival will only increase the already vast amount of talent on the grid, all eager to make their mark.

4. Max Verstappen leads Red Bull into Honda era

Could 2019 finally be the year Red Bull makes that final step and challenges Mercedes and Ferrari on a regular basis?

Well, it is probably their best chance yet as tweaks in the aerodynamic regulations offering a chance to gain an advantage and the new Honda engine partnership may be the final piece in the puzzle.

After five years of suffering with Renault, expectations are high that the ever-improving Japanese supplier can at least allow Red Bull to be competitive at every Grand Prix.

Will it be enough for a title challenge? That may depend on Max Verstappen who was arguably the second best driver on the grid by the end of 2018 behind Hamilton.

If the Dutchman can continue his impressive form, finding the consistency to go with his massive talent, then maybe, just maybe, he's the man to beat in 2019.

5. Charles Leclerc heads to Ferrari

This is the story most are looking forward to this year as we find out if Leclerc has what it takes to compete against the very best while dressed in red.

The Monegasque lived up to the hype at Sauber in his rookie year and now has the opportunity to stake his claim at Ferrari and prove why he is the man expected to lead the Scuderia into the next decade.

Leclerc has nothing to fear against his new teammate Sebastian Vettel, the thought of him walking in and instantly beating the German while discussed is not considered likely.

But if he does start to shake the walls at Maranello, it could well trigger a new era in F1 and watching him try and achieve that promises to be truly special.

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